The 2017 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals take place this weekend, and promise to bring as much excitement as ever. The drivers who will participate in the event are certainly excited, regardless of which divisions they’ll be racing.
The Gatornationals will be held at Gainsville Raceway. The event serves as the traditional East Coast opener and the first of 16 races for the Pro Stock Motorcycle season. Several networks will broadcast coverage of the event, starting at 12 A.M. Friday, March 17 on FS1. The full television schedule can be seen here.
Fans who choose to experience the event in person (and assuming one is able to, who wouldn’t choose to do this?) will have the chance to watch the skilled mechanics working on cars in the pit and perhaps snag an autograph or two from some of the drivers.
Those same drivers are anticipating the upcoming races with a mixture of excitement and uncertainty.
“Nothing comes easy in this sport,” explained Super Gas champion Mia Tedesco. “There’s really great competition at every race. So many teams can win. It just has to be your day and everything has to fall into place for you to win one of these deals. I know if we do our jobs we’ll have a great chance to go rounds and put ourselves in position to get the trophy at the end of the day.”
Record holding Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Hector Arana Jr. expressed similar sentiments. “It’ll be interesting to see how everyone improved this off season,” he said. “You can look at testing numbers but you never know if those are 100 percent correct because teams may be trying different things, moving weight around, stuff like that. The real test is on the strip when the lights are on and the stands are full.”
Some drivers are just happy to be there, like Alex Laughlin, who will race in the Top Alcohol division at the Gatornationals but enjoys pretty much anything that goes fast. “What can I say? I’m a racing junkie,” he said. “I love it all. Heck, if someone has a boat I’ll race that thing too. I just love to compete. I love to go fast. I love the thrill of it all.”
Others have a definitive goal in mind. “Having that 200-mph entry with my name next to it in the record books would be neat because it’s there forever, but more than anything, I want to bring glory to Forrest and Charlotte Lucas and Lucas Oil Products,” said Lucas Oil pro Hector Arana Sr., who will compete in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. “And I’m not being a typical racer talking about their sponsor; I mean this from my heart. I owe everything I have to the Lucas family.”
Of course, some drivers have already triumphed at the Gatornationals, but that doesn’t take away from the drive to win. “Just success in general is a boost, no matter what you did or didn’t do in the past,” explained two-time Gatornationals champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. “In our sport you’re only remembered for the last race, for the most part, so you’re constantly feeling the need to prove yourself.”
There’s no question that plenty of drivers will feel that need over the course of the upcoming weekend, so head down to the track or flip through your channels to watch the Gatornationals, starting with qualifying sessions this Friday and running through Sunday, March 19. Event info is here.